Mortgage FRAUD – 12 Indicted in Houston, TX – FBI Hard At Work…

October 12, 2008

“Those who seek to take advantage of the American Dream of home ownership and those who prey upon others in these dire economic times will most certainly be held accountable,” United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle stated in his news release announcing the indictments.

Anthony Wayne Hawkins, 48, Brandon Alonzo Crenshaw, 27, Nehemiah Jamal Douglas, 28, Babette Jammer, 47, and David Vasser, 59, were indicted for their alleged involvement in a mail and wire fraud conspiracy which resulted in the defendants and their co-conspirators fraudulently obtaining more than $17 million in loan proceeds. The defendants and their co-conspirators are accused of recruiting individuals to purchase residential properties with the intent to deceive mortgage lenders concerning the borrower’s ability and incentive to repay the loans. Falsified documents were prepared and provided to the mortgage lenders, according to the indictment, to support loan applications.

No wonder we are facing the most significant financial crisis our nation (perhaps the world) has seen since the great depression. Daily announcement are being made about the indictment or conviction related to similar schemes.

“The FBI remains committed to continuing its efforts to vigorously address mortgage fraud and ensure that the strength and integrity of the nation’s financial sector are sustained,” Bland said. “Moreover, it is imperative that those who engage in this pernicious crime, and thereby undermine the economic vitality of our communities, are held fully accountable for their actions.”

“Mortgage fraud, like all financial crimes, threatens the overall health of our financial institutions and erodes the integrity of our tax system,” Clarke said. “Additionally, these types of crimes drive buyers into foreclosure, leave lenders burdened with bad loans and neighborhoods with abandoned and deteriorating properties. IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to working with its law enforcement partners to pursue individuals who commit these types of crimes.”

Question:

Other than premeditated blatant theft, how could those indicted become associated with such an outright fraud? More importantly, did any of them think that there was a chance of getting by with such a fraud. As a white collar crime and business ethics speaker, I understand that every choice has a consequence. It’s easy to see how someone could make a simple mistake that compounds and becomes a fraud with terrible consequences, but this seems noting more than blatant theft.

Perhaps I am missing something here. If you know these people and have any insight your comments are welcome.


Financial Meltdown? Where Were Our Government Leader’s Ethics? Comments by Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

September 23, 2008

The words are “urgent action” as uttered by those in financial leadership in our country.  Action needs to be taken in order to avoid a financial meltdown.  Somehow, I would suspect that words similar to that were uttered immediately before the Great Depression.  Have we learned nothing from past history?

According to CNN:

“You know, I share the outrage that people have,” said Paulson. “It’s embarrassing to look at this, and I think it’s embarrassing to the United States of America.”

“There is a lot of blame to go around – a lot of blame with big financial institutions that engaged in this irresponsible lending … blame to the people who made loans they shouldn’t have made, people who took out loans they shouldn’t have taken out,” said Paulson, who served as CEO of Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs for seven years before he became Treasury Secretary in 2006.

Now I’m confused.  Treasury Secretary Paulson is a smart man…otherwise he would not have lead Goldman Sachs and been named Treasury Secretary.  Yet, now we face one of the most significant financial crisis of our generation and times and at the heart of the issue are actions taken by aggressive financial institutions.

“Blame to the people who made loans they shouldn’t have…”  Secretary Paulson shame.  Blame to the people.  The people don’t have control over what loans are available and which loans are marketed to them.  I agree there should be blame, but to blame people who responded to sophisticated marketing campaigns that were promulgated by financial institutions who have huge profits to earn is absurd!

The “people” bought what you sold and only by the grace of the federal reserve is your former company – Goldman Sachs still in business.  The sad reality is – we are where we are due to misguided efforts and actions by those institutions (financial and government) who should have known better.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is reported to have said that the central bank would prefer that the government not have to take an active role in raising capital needed by financial firms. But he said there was no alternative given current market conditions.

“Action by the Congress is urgently required to stabilize the situation and avert what otherwise could be very serious consequences for our financial markets and for our economy,” Bernanke said.

Ethics are defined as the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.  As an Ethics Speaker, I feel that those who lead have not only a moral duty but a supreme obligation to do what is good and in the best interest of those they serve.  At this moment the debate in Washington, DC directly relates to doing what is in the “good and best interest” of those they serve.  Sad that we had to arrive on the brink of a financial disaster in order for our leaders to take notice.

We can all make mistakes.  Leaders are not perfect.  But as I say in ever Ethics presentation I make – Every Choice Has A Consequence.  This is no different.  The self-serving profiteering choices of the past – loaning money to those who could not afford it and driving an economy on the back of those who are now blamed – is unethical and wrong.  I submit that had the same actions been made on a small scale – the government would have charged those involved with fraud and it would have been a “white collar crime” example.  But this is too big and now it is called a mistake with our top financial leaders and institutions being bailed out.

What do you think – Goldman, Merrill, Lehman, AIG, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae – the government’s oversight – ethical or unethical?

An interesting commentary by Ron Paul can be found here…you might want to take a look.


Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley Survive! On The Back of Taxpayer Deposits?

September 21, 2008

Now let me state from the outset – I don’t claim to be a financial wizard, but I find it curious that in order for the last of our country’s investment banks to survive they must become – well – regular banks.

If somehow we haven’t gotten it thus far – AMERICA IS IN FINANCIAL CRISIS!  The scope of the crisis is truly unknown to the average citizen and while I am no doomsayer – it is not over.

The borderline unethical financial practices of these institutions are the root cause of their demise.  When you loan money to people who can’t practically pay it back in the interest of profits – you are, in my opinion, acting without sound business ethics.  But here’s the deal – if it were you or I, we would be conviced of some fraud or conspiracy.  That would mean jail time.  But when your crime (yes I said crime) is so large that it shakes the foundation of our financial markets – you get bailed out and make no mistake the Fed’s action today (on a Sunday) is a bail out.

Think about it – over the course of the past three weeks our government in one form or another has spent up to nearly 1 TRILLION of our taxpayer dollars to shore up our financial institutions so that we would not experience another GREAT DEPRESSION.  Wise or not remains to be seen.  All I report on here are the facts.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are the remaining two investment backs surviving.  Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and will be sold to Barclays and Merrill Lynch was purchased by Bank of America.  Fascinating that little NCNB (former North Carolina National Bank) became Bank of America and now is the largest bank in the US with the Merrill acquisition.  Who said the South would not rise again.  But I digress.

According to a report by CNN:

The Fed announced that it had approved the request of the two investment banks. The change in status will allow them to create commercial banks that will be able to take deposits, bolstering the resources of both institutions.

It is clear that this change of status is designed to use “deposit” as a means of leverage giving them a stable source of funding.  The question is – who would want to deposit funds into either institution.

Answer:  In the surprise announcement late Sunday, the central bank said that to provide increase funding support to Goldman (GS, Fortune 500) and Morgan (MS, Fortune 500) during the transition period, they would be allowed to get short-term loans from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York against various types of collateral.

So let me get this straight in my mind – the federal reserve is going to make loans to both Goldman and Morgan giving them cash to offset their poor loan portfolio making them appear to be safe.  To me that is like paint a rotten fence with white paint and calling it new.  This is nothing more than a disguised bail out.

According to MSNBC: After the collapse of Bear Stearns and its forced sale to JP Morgan Chase last March, the Fed used powers it had been granted during the Great Depression to extend its emergency loans to investment banks as well as commercial banks. However, that extension was granted on a temporary basis.

But as commercial banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will have permanent access to emergency loans from the Fed, the same privilege that other commercial banks enjoy.

So here are some questions to ponder – and feel free to respond!

Question 1: Should the Fed have taken the actions to allow Goldman and Morgan to survive by allowing “normal” banking deposits?

Question 2: Do you feel that the actions by the “investment banks” have been ethical or unethical?  Why?

Question 3: With the massive actions taken over the course of the past three or so weeks, do you feel more or less confident in our nations economy?

As a business ethics speaker, I can say that there has never been a time in my lifetime that demands more thought, focus and ethical consideration of actions taken than now.  Business is good and business done with right ethical intention can grow and prosper.  But, as I say in practically every presentation I make – Every choice has a consequence.  Now we are reaping the consequences of choices made – not so long ago.

For all our sakes let’s hope that we can weather the economic storm ahead.

Your comments are welcome!


Government Bail Out! $200 billion – now $500 Billion – Oops now $700 Billion – Is it too little too late?

September 20, 2008

The first paragraph from Yahoo news reads:

A half-trillion dollar bailout that the Bush administration and Congress are negotiating this weekend for faltering financial institutions could unload their bad debt on the government, and in turn the taxpayer.

So let me get this right … financial institutions made bad loans that are either delinquent or in default to people who should not have received them in the first place and now in order to keep the CREDIT markets afloat the government is going to do a massive bail out so that these same institutions can continue to loan.

Do not get me wrong I agree with the statement made by Treasury Secretary Paulson…”I am convinced that this bold approach will cost American families far less than the alternative — a continuing series of financial institution failures and frozen credit markets unable to fund economic expansion.  The financial security of all Americans … depends on our ability to restore our financial institutions to a sound footing.”

His statement is accurate, but the whole concept is that the economy is based on consumer spending and borrowing.  In fact, whether we wish to admit it or not, the entire US system is based on borrowing.  The government is the biggest borrower of all.  And unless somehow history does not repeat itself – eventually there is a day of reckoning when you are expected to pay back what you owe.  What happens when the government and/or the taxpayers can’t repay what the government has borrowed?

But enough of the big picture…what about now and the impact?  First, most of us have no idea how close we have come to a major depression.  In fact, while I am no doomsayer, rarely is reality what is stated by the government.  More times than not the outcome is far more costly than what is predicted.  So we very well may not have seen the end of this financial mess.

According to CNN: The plan: The federal government would buy up “hundreds of billions of dollars” of illiquid mortgage assets at a deep discount from banks. The Treasury Department is likely to run the program directly, unlike the savings and loan crisis of the 1990s that led to the creation of the Resolution Trust Company.

“The federal government must implement a program to remove these illiquid assets that are weighing down our financial institutions and threatening our economy,” said Paulson.

Now what is clear about this plan is that financial institutions get to clean up their balance sheets so that they can continue to stay in business and LOAN. 

Question: Wonder what consequences, if any, the bank or financial institutions will incur?  Any penalties for making stupid loans to unqualified individuals in the first place?

Question: As inefficient as the government is how will they be any better at collecting on what is due than the financial institutions are?  Bet, they won’t be…rather either one or two things will happen: (1) they will do just what the banks would have done – FORECLOSE and sell the property off at deep discounts; or (2) somehow FORGIVE the debt and allow the property owners to own at less than what they borrowed in the first place.  Either way – people who have played by the rules PAY!

According to a CNN article: The plan will help banks shore up their balance sheets by removing hard-to-value assets. This would address the seemingly endless rounds of writedowns and capital raising that have been rocking the financial sector.

Without these bad loans weighing on their books, banks may be more willing to lend. Or at least that’s the goal.

The problem is that the bailout will not automatically make banks profitable, nor will it stop the slide in home values that is wreaking havoc on the economy.

Danger! Without the bad business on the books Banks would find it easier to raise capital and MAKE MORE LOANS.  The question still remains – who or what will make sure that banks don’t repeat (in the interest of big profit) what they did (not that long ago) to get into this mess?

Over the course of two days the price tag has gone from $200 billion to $500 billion and now I see on MSNBC that it is $700 billion.  Now, as Forrest Gump would say…”I’m not a smart man,” but I know that this government bail out will cost each American a lot of money.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?


Massive Government Bail-Out … Good Business or Bad Ethics? Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher Comments…

September 19, 2008

Unless you are on an island somewhere disconnected from society…you are no doubt aware that we are in the midst of one of the most massive government bail outs in US history!  While I wasn’t around during the great depression – from everything we read what is taking place now is second only to that and, folks, that is amazing.  I was around during the massive savings and loan scandal and, like most who read, know that we are far from over with this one.  In fact, I don’t know of many institutions (Savings and Loans that is) who did survive.  

If the past is to be repeated, our financial climate or landscape will be dramatically different in several years.  Further, seldom does the government estimate a number that is right.  You can count on the cost being several times what is proposed today.  200 Billion will likely be a drop in the bucket when it is all said and done.  

For months I have been reporting on mortgage frauds and the number seems to keep increasing.  Clearly, the “greed is good” mentality went far beyond the crooks who are being prosecuted today and spread far and wide.  The net is being cast wide for this financial disaster and many will not survive.

The question, however, here is – should the government being doing what it is doing.  Many popular writers of financial books say – YES.  “What took them so long?”  Yet others claim that the government has no business getting involved in private business – especially when there are companies who perhaps engaged in unethical behavior – knowing full well that the products they were selling would result in financial disaster for many.  When you loan money to someone who cannot afford to make the payments you are committing a financial unethical act.  Sure there is short term profit, but at what cost?   

What’s your opinion:  (1)  Were the financial institutions unethical in their actions related to the sub-prime mortgage issue? (2)  Should the government have taken the actions that are now underway?  (3) Would it have been better to let the free market take it’s own corrective action and let the chips fall where they may?

Good business or bad ethics – what’s your call?